Wedding planning. It's the thing every girl with a wedding pinterest board has waited for. (Well after the ring of course.) Yet, wedding planning is also the thing that quickly becomes the most dreaded part of any engagement season. Why? Simply put: as exciting as planning the wedding of your dreams can be, all the decision making, budgeting, and organising can get hectic and overwhelming real fast.
Being a wedding photographer and having photographed (not to mention attended) my fair share of weddings, I've quickly learned that one of the toughest parts of wedding planning for any bride is her timeline. Think about it: before you became the owner of that new shiny piece of jewellery on our finger, you probably weren't a professional event coordinator. You've never planned a wedding before, so how should you know how long cocktail hour should be or what part of the day is best to take photos? Right? That's where I'm gonna step in and make your life a whole lot easier with these 5 must-know tips for a seamless wedding day timeline. Brides, you listening? Let's do this.
1) Hire a wedding planner
I know a lot of brides might opt out of hiring a wedding planner because they think they can coordinate and plan everything themselves, but my number one tip for having a seamless wedding day schedule is to hire a wedding planner. Even if you are super Type A and organised as heck, a wedding planner is going to be your new best friend. Their job is to know the wedding industry, help you find vendors you love, and be there coordinating everything on your big day. Trust me on this: your wedding day will run a LOT smoother if you have a wedding planner. Without one, people who shouldn't be doing that job typically get left trying to fill the gap, like family members or unqualified friends. Ease your stress, let your family and friends actually enjoy your day, and hire a professional for this. You can thank me later.
2) Schedule in more time than necessary
Every single wedding day falls behind schedule. Every single one. I think it's in the wedding rule book or something, haha. Between late family members, hair and makeup taking longer than expected, or bad traffic, some part of your big day is going to take longer than you anticipate. Keep that in mind when building your wedding day timeline. I always tell my brides to leave buffer time to allow for things running behind schedule. Another reason I preach about putting buffer time in your timeline is to allow time to breathe and relax right before your ceremony. If things run behind schedule (and 99% of the time they will), I don't want my brides to have to be taking photos right up until the ceremony. Then you are stressed and not in the mental mindset to make a lifelong commitment to the love of your life, ya feel me? Plan for that extra time so you can relax, have a drink, pray with your bridesmaids, or just reflect (whatever it is that will put you in the right headspace) before the ceremony.
3) Highly consider doing a first look
If you don't know what I'm talking about, a first look is when the bride and groom see each other alone for the first time before the ceremony. It's an alternative to the more traditional option of waiting to see each other until the bride walks down the aisle. Not only is a first look more intimate and personal - you are alone and can enjoy that experience yourselves verses having ALL your guests' eyes on you when you first see each other. But even more than that, first looks are wonderful for a more strategic and smooth timeline. Logistically, if the bride and groom can see each other before the ceremony, you are able to knock out all of the more formal portrait photos before the ceremony - i.e. the bride and groom, wedding party, and family portraits. This leaves more time to enjoy cocktail hour and mingle with the guests you've invited to your wedding.
4) Your ceremony time determines everything
As you start booking your venue, photographer, caterer, florist, etc.. the time you set your ceremony at is going to dictate the amount of time you have to get ready, how long into the night your reception will go, the lighting of your photographs, and ultimately how much money you are going to spend. "Wait, say what?" you're probably thinking. Let me explain. Say you want a rocking' party that lasts into the night. If you set your ceremony at 4pm that's going to be a lot of reception hours. If you want all of those hours photographed/filmed/etc.. that is more hours your paying your photographer and videographer to be there. Say you want to forego the normal evening wedding for a morning wedding. Unless we do your photos at sunrise, you're not going to get the golden sunrise/sunset light; you'll get pretty direct harsh light. Now I am fully capable of making some pretty stellar magic happen in even the most direct of sunlight; however, I'm not a magician and I can't make it look like sunset or blue hour (after the sun goes down) if it's not. Lighting wise, a good rule of thumb is to set your ceremony to start about 1-2 hours before sunset. Lastly, the time you set your ceremony at, determines when we can take all the portrait photos. If you set your ceremony to be right AT sunset, yet you still want portrait photos with natural light, you pretty much HAVE to have a first look and knock out all the portraits beforehand.
5) Give EVERYONE the detailed timeline
Create your timeline with as much information on it as possible, and then print it and pass it out to absolutely anyone who could possibly need it. Shoot hand it to people that don't need it. The more you communicate exactly what you want, and everyone is on the same page, the smoother your wedding day will be. Put phone numbers, addresses, and every last detail on that timeline. Because let's be honest, no one should be texting or calling you on the morning of your wedding to ask where they should be or what they need to be doing. Figure all of that out in advance and turn your phone off on the day of your wedding. But really, do it. This is the day for you to be fully present and enjoy every last minute. If anyone has questions tell them to contact your Maid of Honor or you wedding planner. It's YOUR day. Plan in advance so you're able to relax, de-stress, and enjoy the heck out of every last minute!
I hope these tips were helpful for you bride-to-be's out there! Planning a wedding is NOT easy, but by taking the right steps to set yourself up for success, your wedding day should be perfect and seamless (and if it's not, no one should be telling you about it, haha). Do you guys have any other helpful wedding timeline tips? Past brides, leave them below and let's help one another out!
Lindsey Roman is an adventurous, destination wedding and intimate elopement photographer based out of Oahu, Hawaii but travels worldwide. She lives for outdoor adventures, intimate moments, and candid images. Her style is raw, passionate, and authentic. She believes in chasing sunsets, laughing too hard, and most importantly: capturing genuine moments that evoke feeling over perfectly posed photographs.